Kegel Exercises Help Incontinence After Pregnancy
Continuing to do the exercises for the rest of their life is crucial if women are going to keep the muscles toned and prevent further weakening, says urologist Nicholas Franco, MD.
"Gynecologists tell their patients they need to do the Kegel exercises, but I think where they fail is to spend the time showing them how to do it properly or to have a nurse or someone in the office show them how to do it," says Franco, head of female urology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. "At the very least, check on them from time to time to see that [patients] are doing it right. Everybody knows about Kegels it seems, but not everybody does them the right way."
To perform a Kegel exercise, experts recommend that women first identify their pelvic floor muscles by starting and stopping urination. Once you have located the muscles, simply tighten and relax the muscle over and over.
Biofeedback and electrostimulation are especially useful for women who have trouble doing Kegels, says Paul D. Indman, MD.
"Some women don't have the muscle strength to even begin to do it," says Indman, a gynecologist in private practice in Los Gatos, Calif.
Once you are sure you're doing the exercises correctly, Franco says, it takes just a few minutes to do them before getting out of bed in the morning, after emptying your bladder, on your lunch break, while sitting at a red light, while watching TV, and before falling asleep at night.
"You have to do them at least four or five times a day in sets of five," he says. "That's about 20 or 25 contractions divided over the course of the day and it doesn't take much to do five contractions. It just takes a little discipline to do it every day."
For most younger women, Kegel exercises done correctly can strengthen pelvic floor muscles. For those who can't, Indman says surgery is an option, when a woman decides she's ready for it.